COVID-19 DIARY – BORDER WARS – PART III

Tim Peake shares stunning pictures of the UK from space on his ...

 

Originally I was going to work from home Monday and Tuesday but ended up working in the office the entire week from Monday the 8th of June to Friday the 12th of June which I really enjoyed.

We’re still rotating staff between working from home and working in the office and working to maintain a high level of customer service.

Restrictions have lowered, case numbers are down but our day to day existence is still not back to the way it was and it is not expected to be for a long time.

 

June 11

I went to Jetts Fitness at the airport where I work out just after 9pm only to discover the gym was closed from 8pm to 5am currently. I called my gym the next day and established I wouldn’t be charged any fees but it would be a while yet for me and shift workers until we could return to the gym. …and I was feeling so inspired after watching The Last Dance.

 

June 12

Restrictions are being lowered faster than you would have expected back in March.

Pressure mounts for states to re-open their borders and the recent mass protests seem to be a tipping point.

If mass outbreaks of the disease don’t follow these mass gatherings there is no question all state governments will look to open the borders and lower restrictions even more.

That means a window of about two to three weeks.

Say July 10.

On Friday the Prime Minister held a meeting with National Cabinet and a press conference afterwards.

The Deputy Premier of Queensland Steven Miles says Queensland will look to lower border restrictions on July 10.

South Australian Premier sets 20JUL2020 for borders being re-opened having closed the borders almost four months earlier on 24MAR2020.

Western Australia does not make any firm commitments.

There is advice that in stadiums with a capacity of over 40,000 crowds at 25% capacity

A limit of 100 in attendance at indoor gatherings will be scrapped in favour of 4 metre distancing. Having walked around supermarkets lately I’m not sure how you’re going to enforce 4 metre distancing but good luck.

On Friday afternoon in a press conference Prime Minister Scott Morrison was asked a question about the current removal programs from streaming services in recent days like Gone With The Wind in America on HBO Max.

Also closer to home shows like Little Britain and Summer Heights High where white actors had performed black characters in comedy shows in black face which has severe historical connotations.

His answer which also alluded to a recent debate about statues showed where his priorities were.

“I’m worried about jobs. I’m worried about 800,000 Australians going on to JobSeeker in the last three months. I’m not interested in what they’re showing on streaming services,” he said.

I couldn’t agree more.

 

 

On the 12th of June the World Health Organisation reported there had been 7,410,510 (more than 7 million were confirmed on the 9th of July) confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally with a daily increase of 136,572. The number of dead were 418,294 with a daily increase of 4,925.

In Australia there had been 7,825 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 18. There had been 102 deaths in Australia.

In Canada there had been 97,125 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 472. The were 7,960 dead with a daily increase of 63.

In India there had been 297,535 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 10,956. There were 8,498 with a daily increase of 396.

In the United Kingdom there had been 291,413 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 1,266. There were 41,279 dead with a daily increase of 151. The only silver lining to be found was that currently there appeared to be a downward trend in the number of daily increase of cases.

 

UK Figures

 

In the United States of America there had been 1,988,646 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 20,315. There were 112,810 dead with a daily increase of 832.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – ISSUES IN THIS SPACE

Scott Morrison told by Queanbeyan local to get off lawn

June 04

In a week when the US leader was clearly protestors from their public city with the full might of police force so he could stand around doing an unplanned photo op where he couldn’t even find some words to say of merit.

My national leader was taking it in all his stride when yelled at by a disgruntled home owner.

Talking up a reno scheme he was assembled in front of a property with press journalists lined up on someone’s lawn to film him.

That wasn’t bloody good enough for the guy inside his house, waltzing out in thongs and tracksuit jumper he asked the journos to move. The Prime Minister didn’t waste a second to apologise and encourage getting off the man’s lawn.

Both the lawn enthusiast and the Prime Minister Scott Morrison exchanged apologies gave each other the thumbs up.

After all the man had just re-seeded!

The disparity between the two images was incredible.

A lone man telling his Prime Minister to move his press conference with a quick apology and thumbs up.

Contrast that with hundreds protesting the injustice of racial inequality of their country only to be forcibly moved so their President could try and save face for his failings.

I’ve often commented on the bulldoggish nature of Morrison as a virtue and a flaw. There was none of that on display here. He couldn’t have risen higher in my estimations.

 

 

On the horizon though was another issue for the Prime Minister which would prove more testing. Black Lives Matter protests were starting to take place here in Australia with a march already on Tuesday in Sydney having taken place when public gatherings were limited to 20 people.

On Wednesday there was a candlelight vigil in Brisbane.

Speaking to Ray Hadley on 2GB radio Thursday morning the PM warned against “importing the things that are happening overseas to Australia.” while acknowledging that Australia had problems “in this space” that it needed to address.

He was not wrong, there had been over 432 deaths of Aboriginals in police custody since a Royal Commission was held in 1991.

As the week went on it became clear our political masters were choosing to let mass protests go ahead rather than risk further unrest. This would lay bare either the danger had passed or that the protestors had initiated a new break out. Either way it would undermine their ability to enforce rules going forward as most of them were in a rush to lower restrictions anyway.

We stood at a precipice.

Once again the Prime Minister called on our better natures “We don’t need the divisions that we’re seeing in other countries – we need to stick together and look after each other.”

 

 

I was back at work in the office on Thursday too having been away for two and half weeks. I took the chance to pay the money that had been raised on the GoFundMePage to Stellarossa Toowong.

The manager told me the money raised would pay for roughly 112 coffee vouchers but they had gotten 200 and would chip in the rest themselves.

You have to marvel at the kindness of people sometimes.

I started making arrangements with the Media Team at the Wesley hospital to make delivery.

On the 4th of June the World Health Organisation reported there had been 7,229 confirmed cases in Australian with a daily increase of eight. The number of dead 102 with a daily decrease of one. That would be Blackwater Miner Nathan Turner.

 

 

In the rest of Europe there were plenty of protests too and in London they were turning ugly with reporters assaulted by protestors or just plain crazy people.

As I watched Nine News Europe Correspondent Ben Avery and camera operator Cade Thompson needing to make a run for it as the crowd attacked them even with a security guard.

Europe Correspondent Sophie Walsh was accosted by a random man who was chased away by her cameraman Jason Conduit.

I urged my sister to stay inside in the coming days.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – BORDER WARS – PART II

Queensland border restrictions in Darling Downs - Darling Downs

There was another great Four Corners episode this week from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that covered what had happened on the last cruises of the Diamond Princess in February in the North Pacific and the Ruby Princess in March in the Trans-Tasman Sea.

What was pretty concerning wasn’t just the disembarkation of passengers in Sydney on the 19th of March.

What was more concerning that the cruise had ever been allowed to leave Sydney given how COVID-19 had spread through her sister ship in Asia in February. Or the lack of precautions that were made during the cruise when an outbreak was clearly occurring.

For many of us the initial news reports coming out of that part of the world were perceived as something happening over there like previous diseases SARS and MERS.

As the situation escalated at some point the actions of Carnival Corporation become troubling. And people died.

It’s quite a heartbreaking tale.

 

May 27

In Blackwater a town of less than 5,000 in Central Queensland the late miner aged 30 returned a positive postmortem test for COVID-19. In the days ahead with the set-up of fever clinics and contract tracing in the town a second test came back negative.

Nathan Turner had underlying medical conditions that had meant he had been unable to work in recent months due to illness. At age 30 he came the youngest fatality in Australia of COVID-19. The second test was good news for the town in terms of COVID fears but his death remained a tragic loss of one so young.

 

 

There were 484 active cases in Australia on the 25th of May.

On the 17th of March there had been 410 cases which was on the eve of the Ruby Princess docking and ceasing international air travel.

Allowing that changes were in place that weren’t then and awareness from the general populace was different there was a growing push to re-open the economy.

However Epidemiologist Professor Mary-Louise McLaws from the University of NSW advised the same day “Given that there is that, we should be waiting for 14 days … to get to zero and then add those two incubation periods before we start hopping on aeroplanes or coaches or cars to states and territories that have been exemplary in getting their numbers to zero“.

Two days later Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke on the Channel Nine Today show, “The National Cabinet has never agreed that there should be borders closed in Australia,” Mr Morrison said. That was never the medical expert advice that came at any time. Premiers and their governments in states, whether it is South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, Queensland, have all made their own decisions and so they have got to justify those decisions.

The Federal and State governments have worked hard through their differences at all times during the crisis at unprecedented levels. NSW and Victoria pushed hard to shut down schools and now there were disagreements about the borders.

In the early days of the crisis as the state borders shut it was considered that it may be until September before they were opened again. Now the momentum was shifting.

There is no doubt that those sort of borders do harm the economy, they do harm jobs and it is important that we get those removed as soon as possible. I want to stress, the national medical advice that came from the expert panel that has driven all the other decisions never recommended closing borders.” said the PM.

Queensland Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk noted “These are really hard decisions everyone, I have sleepless nights, I understand people are hurting, I understand people have lost their jobs. I want to get people back into work as quickly as possible. But if I don’t do it safely it could cripple our industry for years to come.

Other states were holding firm too. The Tasmania Premier Peter Gutwein advised “I won’t comment on the way the Queensland premier deals with her borders nor how the NSW premier deals with hers. It’s quite obvious the federal government has a view but my job is to protect the best interests of Tasmanians.

The Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan said “The interstate border will stay. It’s a small inconvenience … it won’t be forever. Our hard borders with the east and our isolation have worked to our advantage and we must keep it that way for now.

This was on the 28th of May, history was about to push the trajectory of these plans in another direction.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – THE ECONOMIC ROAD AHEAD

View from The Hill: Can Scott Morrison achieve industrial ...

May 26

Tuesday.

The Prime Minister did an address at the National Press Club in Canberra talking about the tough road ahead economically with a plan to stick with the National Cabinet meetings over the previous COAG meetings.

Reform to vocational education was on his mind and bringing unions to the table for industrial reform.

The Prime Minister outlined the road to recovery would be a long one taking between three to five years. The unprecedented actions of Jobkeeper and Jobseeker set in place for a financial quarter would not continue indefinitely with the PM warning “At some point you’ve got to get your economy out of ICU.”

The ABC article also editorialised “The blunt comments are expected to further dash hopes that the Government will bow to pressure and extend the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme to more workers who missed out on the $1,500 fortnightly payments.

He also announced a new JobMaker scheme.

There was no push to have Australia turn more inward, while the Prime Minister defined us as a sovereign trading economy he sought to create an educated workforce that would mean competitive and modern manufacturing, agricultural industries while still trade of natural resources would play a big role.

Firstly, we will remain in Australia an outward-looking, open and sovereign trading economy.

We will not retreat into the downward spiral of protectionism. To the contrary, we will continue to be part of global supply chains that can deliver the prosperity we rely on to create jobs, support incomes and build businesses.

Our economic sovereignty will be achieved by ensuring our industries are highly competitive, resilient and able to succeed in a global market. Not by protectionism.

While a trading nation, we will never trade away our values or our future for short-term gain.

These remarks were not without context, Australia did call for an independent enquiry into the source of COVID-19 in Wuhan and in the weeks since China has placed tariffs and seen a reduction in importing Australian barley and wheat.

As China has grown into the a economic powerhouse it has started flexing abroad in trade and in military excursions. No different than other superpowers before it but surely any calls that could help in combating this global pandemic should not lead to bullying tactics.

As the ABC reported the country faced a record deficit, debt exceeding 30% of Gross Domestic Product, unemployment hovering around 10 per cent and a fall in foreign investment by up to 40 per cent.

 

The national leader relayed all the work that had been done to build up medical stockpiles, hospital capacity and testing numbers and contract tracing abilities.

The virus was not going anywhere and on our comparative good fortune the PM stressed, “We should not downplay this, this achievement and pretend like the risk never existed, or that our preparations or our precautions were unwarranted. Let me assure you, Australia, the risk was great and uncertain and it still is.

The fact our worst case scenarios have not been realised is cause for great relief, not apathy.

In his speech the Prime Minister outlined more than 5 million Australians were directly benefiting from his government’s welfare measures.

At a now anticipated direct cost of more than $150 billion in just six months, all borrowed, all of it, against future tax revenue. These supports can only be temporary.

It was William Green, the leader of the American Federation of Labour who said during the Great Depression in 1934: “we cannot indefinitely support one sixth of our population on money borrowed against future taxes”.

That was a Labour leader in the Great Depression.

Now here was a mainstream conservative leader steering through a once in a century health crisis, a budding trade war and a looming recession who had outspent all previous Prime Ministers.

The expense the welfare packages running long term came with a hefty price tag. Long term it was just not feasible even for the biggest bleeding hearts amongst us.

Which drove home the gravity of the situation, if Jobkeeper and Jobseeker continued for only the next quarter and the economy didn’t re-open to a certain extent by then…

Then what?

On the 2nd of June, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told us what we already knew, Australia was in a recession.

On the 26th of May however the Prime Minister was focussed on the positives. Citing that with a hopeful completion of the 3 Step Plan by mid-July for re-opening the economy across the country there would hopefully be 850,000 jobs ultimately restored.

He did acknowledge the idea of flicking a switch and turning the economy back on was simply not plausible.

Success in this current phase will certainly not be easy. It cannot be assumed as we go through this process. It will not be business as usual. Opening up will be harder than closing down.

We will all have to have to retrain, to live and work in a way that creates a sustainable COVIDSafe economy and society as you are indeed doing here today.

All of us are in uncharted territory. There will be inconsistencies, there will be frustrations. There will be trial, there will be error.

During this time we can also sadly expect unemployment and underemployment to rise before it falls. Debt and deficits to rise sharply, as costs rise and revenues fall.

This will test our confidence and our resolve.

That is why the reopening of our economy must be followed by a concerted effort to create momentum and to rebuild confidence.

If there was hope to be found in the speech it was when he said “We should be encouraged that we have restored jobs and rebalanced our Budget before. So Australia, we have done this before and we can do it again, together.

 

One could get cynical about these things, there is after all a political purpose behind them. A number of highly paid staff curating and writing the brief and deciding what goes in and what doesn’t make it.
I would remind you that in these words the Prime Minister is talking about real people and in these few individuals he is seeking to talk about all of us and not just Australians but all people.
About people who have lost a lot and the grace and courage they display in these moments that came from within them and lies within each and every one of us.
We will need this courage and grace and so we need these words to be said by our leaders now more than ever and we need to believe in them.

Almost 100,000 Australians have written to me in the past couple of months.

So many have suffered and they continue to hurt, right here and right now – lost jobs, reduced hours, seeing their family businesses shut, having to close those doors, or retirement incomes shrink. Loved ones kept apart.

It has been a time of great uncertainty as Australians have had to come to terms with the sudden and profound changes happening to their lives.

Greg is a chef with six kids in Sydney, he wrote to me about his business suffering from the restrictions, saying that everything he has worked for is at risk.

Sue from Jimbooma, told me that other than a first home owners grant, she had never received a cent from the government. JobKeeper has saved her business, she said, and she just wanted to say thank you.

Anthony, not the one you’re thinking of, but quite genuinely Anthony from Western Australia, he sent me his wedding photo. His wife of 50 years had just passed away. He said his wife “was the most caring person you could ever meet” and he was absolutely heartbroken that he couldn’t give her the send-off she deserved. Of all the things, of all the decisions we have taken, that was undoubtedly the hardest.

And I received an email from three children in Western Australia that completely floored me, their father is terminally ill. They told me they understood their Dad’s funeral would have to be small. They wanted me to know they were ok with that – because it will help keep the hospitals available for other patients with cancers and diseases.

That’s incredible, our people are amazing.

And there was Rebhecca, a young woman, who is also terminally ill and sent me a handwritten letter, just wanting to let me know she was praying for me every day.

And I am praying for you every day too.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – ONE YEAR ON

Australia's Election Did Not Involve a 'Populist Wave' | National ...

 

18 May

A truck driver had made deliveries to twelve McDonalds while asymptomatic.

Out of caution McDonalds closed the twelve stores and had staff present on each occasion isolate at home for two weeks and get tested.

This was part of the cluster that originated with a store in Fawkner, Melbourne and affected 1,000 staff. At the time only twelve cases of COVID-19 related to this incident.

The Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews warned “We’re going to see more of these outbreaks.”

The Cedar Meats Abattoir linked to 100 COVID-19 cases earlier in Victoria was now partially re-opening.

For me it did highlight as we began to get to low number of active cases in Australia that the virus was still going to be with us, that we were going to have break-outs and that the rush to get back to levels of activity pre COVID carried a far greater risk. In my mind the spread of these break-outs we were seeing could be minimised by lower levels of social interaction.

 

A McDonald's restaurant with a closed sign on the door and red and white tape around a "now hiring" sign.

 

May 18 held significance for another reason that really didn’t receive a lot of focus in the media.

A year earlier I had worked for the Australian Electoral Commission on Election Night counting votes in a warehouse somewhere.

I had done temporary work for the AEC in 2016 before doing temporary work for the ECQ.

Karen had worked all that day at a polling station like she does at local and state elections.

In 2016 I had worked as a driver on election day, three years later I stated clearly an interest to do further work counting. I feel fortunate to have this extra work as I try to get ahead in life and this was even more so 18MAY2019 when I remained on contract.

I was in the warehouse just before sunset and left around about midnight.

On my way in I drove past what I knew to be the venue where my parents had their wedding reception. A lot had changed since then so my parents had never really taken us there.

After my shift I walked into the main bar area and looked around for a big staircase with a chandelier. There were not a lot of people around. I walked upstairs and found myself at a doorway of a function room.

Inside were a few people in red T-shirts looking sad. This was my first indication of the election results and then up on the screen was Opposition Leader Bill Shorten announcing he had congratulated the Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

I drove home and my amazing Karen served dinner even thoigh she had worked a very long day.

 

 

On the screen Morrison stood with his two cute daughters and beautiful wife on stage. They looked like the middle class families who had voted him in.

In an age of economic uncertainty and identity politics this image of a regular family man was part of the appeal.

The Labour party had put forward an ambitious platform of reform and change just like the conservative campaign of 1993.

A former marketing guru Morrison had reinvented himself from the hard man Immigration Minister he had been, pushing himself as a point of difference from Bill Shorten who knifed two Labour Prime Ministers in a row and his immediate predecessor the urbane and statesman like Malcolm Turnbull who had never won an outright electoral victory to leverage his party room into backing his more ambitious and progressive intents.

 

 

Despite this Morrison had polled badly against Shorten throughout the campaign and so on the 18th of May he quite rightly proclaimed “I have always believed in miracles.”

A year later it may seem hyperbole but Prime Minister Scott Morrison may be steering us through the most difficult times this country has faced since World War II.

 

General Douglas MacArthur | MacArthur/Curtain Alliance | General ...

 

Prime Minister John Curtin broke from Britain and faced imminent invasion in 1942. Like Roosevelt he died in office before the war ended.

There have been other wars and times when the country seemed to be tearing itself apart. There have been great reformers and leaders who saw us through a crisis or two and pushed through unpopular policies that bore out in time. Menzies, Whitlam, Hawke, Keating, Howard, Rudd. They’ve all got something to be proud if not many things.

 

Don't change gun laws, John Howard tells Liberals

 

Yet in the twelve months since 18MAY2018 Scott Morrison was heading us towards an economic surplus. When the bushfires started in September he was up at a Canungra sharing a cry with a local resident.

 

Bushfire survivors get cash boost as weary volunteers face fierce ...

 

Then he went to Hawaii, then he came back and forced handshakes at Cobargo.

 

What Scott Morrison can take from Jacinda Ardern | Stanthorpe ...

 

Then he called out the military and attempted to re-write history in press interviews about what happened when the Australian people knew better.

When his father passed after a lifetime of service to the community as a policeman and politician you could see Morrison was hurting but it was hard to drum up sympathy given the anger those lies stirred within.

 

Scott Morrison's father John dies at 84 | St George & Sutherland ...

 

Yet the bulldog  in him sucked it up and got on with the job. This personality trait may prove his undoing but it has also seen him through some tough times.

Since March, Prime Minister Morrison has sacrificed his economic good fortune to ensure all Australians have a roof over their head and money for food and medicine. He’s given lifelines to numerous businesses and while we were arguably a week or two behind putting in place restrictions in comparison to other countries Australia so far has come through.

That can’t be attributed to all one man nor would he want it to be but we have to give credit where credit is due.

A year ago Scott Morrison would never have been able to imagine what he would have to deal with in the next 12 months as Prime Minister.

So far he has proven himself capable and I for one am hoping he will continue to do so.

A trade war is looming with China, international tourism and investments are seriously impacted by COVID-19 and with a slowed down economy not everybody is going to go back to their pre-COVID earning capacity.

There is going to be real suffering in our country and around the world but so far Morrison has managed to keep cases numbers and the spreading of the disease low, provide a safety net for most of the populace and plan ahead as best he can.

I hope for all of our sakes, his second year in office proves less stressful.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – A 3 STEP PROGRAM

The Brooklyn 'disaster morgue' on sunset park pier, pictured on May 6 with the statue of liberty looming behind the trucks through the fog

May 4

It was Labour Day with me staying home due to a public holiday.

The rest of the week I was due to work from home as well.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced that Prep, Year 1, 11 and 12 would return to school next Monday May 11. For the other grades it was planned for them to remain remote learning with a return to classrooms May 25.

 

5 May

For the first time since the pandemic took off 2 months ago, President Trump leaves Washington D.C. to visit a mask factory in Honeywell, Arizona. In a press conference he stresses that the country has to be re-opened soon mentioning the fact that death from drug use and suicide increase during unemployment.

People are dying the other way, too. When you look at what’s happened with drugs, it goes up. When you look at suicides, I mean, take a look at what’s going on. People are losing their jobs. We have to bring it back and that’s what we’re doing.

30 million Americans had filed for unemployment claims.

President Trump also said of the rising death toll due to COVID-19  “I always felt 60, 65, 70, as horrible as that is. I mean, you’re talking about filling up Yankee Stadium with death! So I thought it was horrible. But it’s probably going to be somewhat higher than that.

He also talked about dialling down the Coronavirus taskforce but over the next few hours that it would remain pivoting to focus on reopening.

 

7 May

It was fair to say things were getting better in Australia in early May. The danger was still present but there were days when states were not reporting any new cases. In comparison to what could  have happened and what was taking place in other countries Australians could breathe somewhat a sigh of relief.

The danger now was to not take this status quo for granted, to not squander our safety with rash decisions. A second wave seemed inevitable so how best to manage it.

April 7 Keep it under control

That week there was an all too clear example of how things could still escalate even with all the restrictions that had been put in place remaining.

In Melbourne, there was an outbreak at the Cedar Meats abattoir leading to 62 confirmed cases.

On Thursday the 7th of May there were 13 new cases reported in the state, twelve of them related to the meatworks. The number of cases in Victoria was 1,154.

The World Health Organisation reported the same day that Australia had 6,875 with a daily increase of 26. There were 97 deaths with a daily increase of one.

With talk of restrictions being lowered in other states the Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews advised he would not be lowering any restrictions until Victoria’s State of Emergency ended next Monday.

There isn’t a jurisdiction in the world that has gone that way that hasn’t had harder lockdowns the second time around compared to the first,” he said.

The Monday was the day after Mother’s Day.

Everyone wants to be with their mum but let’s be really cautious, let’s be really careful not to be spreading the virus. We’ve come a long way. Let’s not give it all back.

I can tell you what I’ll be doing on Mother’s Day. I will not be visiting my mum, even if it was lawful for me to do that. She’s in her mid-70s. She’s in good health but she has some underlying health issues and I just wouldn’t do it, [even though] I’d very much like to.

 

A temporary morgue using refrigerated trucks is set up outside of the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner

 

8 May

Australia’s good fortune clashed with what was happening around the world. I hoped the lessons from them could help us to not be so cavalier about the risk.

Another example of this was the parking of 50 refrigerated trucks in Sunset Park, Brooklyn as funeral homes and moratories were overwhelmed in New York City.

We had seen footage already of such trucks parked outside hospitals but the parking of them in a group even if not all were full underlined the amount of death occurring.

 

 

On the 30th of April Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had told us “Australians deserve an early mark for the work that they’ve done. We can’t keep Australia under the doona. We need to be able to move ahead.

He followed up this mindset in a press conference held the following Friday, the 8th of May.

There will be risks, there will be challenges, there will be outbreaks, there will be more cases, there will be setbacks.

Not everything will go to plan.

There will be inconsistencies. States will and must move at their own pace, and will cut and paste out of this plan to suit their local circumstances.

There will undoubtedly be some human error. No-one is perfect.

Everyone is doing their best.

To think or expect otherwise, I think, would be very unrealistic. This is a complex and very uncertain environment.

But we cannot allow our fear of going backwards from stopping us from going forwards.

Earlier he had offered words of encouragement stating.

That every Australian matters.

Every life, every job, every future.

And we have learnt some important lessons that we can meet the tests, as we have, and the challenges that we have so far confronted.

That when we have to, we can and we do pull together.

That we can focus on something bigger than just ourselves.

He then offered a 3 Step program on the road to what was hoped would be the successful lowering of restrictions.

Each step would be subject to review every three weeks to implement the next step but the situation would be constantly monitored and subject to change.

They’re not formal reviews — I’d describe them more as stocktakes as to where the framework is at, and looking at where all the states are, and how we’re going towards our ultimate aspiration of being [at Step 3] in July.” explained the Prime Minister.

Also the Prime Minister was leaving it up to each Premier to action the steps in line with the particular situation currently in each state.

New South Wales and Victoria had the highest number of cases. The Northern Territory and Western Australia the lowest.

Step 1 involved five people coming over to your house and gatherings of 10 people in outdoor parks, pools, restaurants, community centres, playgrounds, boot camps and public libraries.

There could be ten people at a wedding and 30 at a funeral. Queensland stipulated if it was outdoors it could be 30, indoors only 20.

You could drive up to 150 kilometres from your place.

Following his news conference South Australia committed to step 1 to be implement that Monday.

Victoria said it would decide on the 11th.

Queensland committed Saturday May 16 or specifically midnight next Friday.

Tasmania would lift some restrictions on the 11th and planned to do others on the 18th.

New South Wales with the most cases said there would be no changes yet. Half of all cases in Australia were in New South Wales.

The Northern Territory had already set a roadmap for themselves coming out of lockdown. When they started lifting restrictions on the 5th of May, 28 of all 30 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Territory had recovered and there had been no new cases for over a month.

The Chief Health Officer Brendan Murphy flagged going to work sick, ” No more heroics of coming to work with a cough and a cold and a sore throat. That’s off the agenda for every Australian for the foreseeable future. I think we’ve all been guilty of that at various times. I know I have. We’re all going to have to change that mentality.

Step 2 would involve gatherings of 20 people, the potential opening of gyms, cinemas, galleries, museums and beauty therapists. Distances of 250 kilometres from home.

Step 3 hoped to be reached in July would look at interstate travel, maybe even travel in the AUS-NZ bubble and gatherings of 100 people. Pubs and clubs would only be looked at for step 3. It seemed like only yesterday that the Prime Minister on the 13th of March had announced gatherings would be restricted to only 100 people in the country from the 16th onwards.

The announcement was made as Australia already had seen an increase in the total number of cases that week with 97 by Friday. Up from 78 the previous week. Yet the plan to re-open and the number of cases per capita in Australia were in stark contrast to Europe and the Americas where some national leaders like Trump were stating re-opening was imminent.

When the PM was asked by a journalist, “Prime Minister, you mentioned earlier that there will be outbreaks, you say that there will be clusters. Is it a case that the states, the territories and Australians will need to hold their nerve once they go down this path and not snap back to tighten restrictions?“.

He simply replied “Yes.”

Interestingly with the announcement that people would be able to return to dining soon we had already organised to catch up with friends over dinner via skype.

Including with a friend who had injured her ankle, it raised her temperature so she spent a night in a COVID ward.

She was now doing well albeit with her leg in a cast. She has gone out of her way to support local businesses during the economic downturn.

I had been in touch with people more on the phone recently but it was nice to have everybody conversing together.

I also pulled out the port but sadly ran out of Galway Pipe and had to make the switch to Cockburns which apparently I was mispronouncing.

Drinking GIF on GIFER - by Morardred

 

Stay safe everyone.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – WHEN WILL THE WEST CREST?

 

When will the first wave crest in the West and subside?

When will the second wave come and will we be ready?

Most of the news has been centred around the pandemic sweeping through America and Europe, at least in my part of the world.

I have spared a thought about what happens when COVID-19 takes off in the third world and specifically the continent of Africa.

A continent that was ripped apart by the AIDS epidemic and has suffered famine and genocide in my lifetime several times.

I worry about the third world but I worry even more currently about the United States of America.

On the 29th of March President Donald Trump tweeted and mentioned in press conferences that he had gotten bigger ratings than The Bachelor for his press briefings. His argument being that while there were those who would like him to not participate or to not have them due to the misinformation he provides regularly, the fact that they rated so well was a reflection of the people’s voice winning out.

This was at a time when modelling suggested America could see a death toll at close to 200,000 in the next two or three weeks. The disease was peaking in the United States of America and emergency and health care workers were stretched beyond capacity.

And this fuckbag was talking about ratings!

Associated Press: New York residents urged to avoid travel as ...

There was a concern about not enough PPE for health care workers which could lead to many of them becoming sick comprising the system’s effectiveness. There was a concern about not enough ventilators, that more people would die than needed to.

Trump went on the offensive musing why New York hospitals suddenly needed 300,000 masks when they previously used 10,000. “So I think people should check that, because there’s something going on, whether – I don’t think it’s hoarding, I think it’s maybe worse than hoarding. But check it out.

While Governor Cuomo had also cited concerns there have been some thefts of masks. The answer was to Trump’s wonderment at the change in numbers was due to the increased workload and that such items have limited use if good hygiene is to be maintained.

Of the crisis in coastal elite states it is true that the horrific numbers forecast at the time have been reached yet weeks later.

Manufacturing recalibrated with lightning speed to help in a time of need, forgotten stocks of PPE were located and ferried where needed.

Yet hard decisions were made, we are just in the beginning of finding out just what was lost and what could have been done better. I have no doubt the blame will not rest with one man.

History decides who was a good leader. History also gets re-evaluated. There are critics of Churchill and Roosevelt too. Yet history tells us they won the war so they’re remembered the way they are. Right now history is being written about Donald Trump.

Can COP21 Save the World? - Pacific Standard

On the 29th of March, 2020 the World Health Organisation reported in the United States of America 103,321 cases with a daily increase of 18,093 cases in one day breaking into six figures. The death toll in America was 1,668 with a daily increase of 425.

In Australia the WHO reported the same day 3,966 confirmed cases with an increase of 331. There were 16 deaths with a daily increase of two.

It had been a long week and a long day for the leaders of Australia.

There was a press briefing that Sunday night following a National Cabinet Meeting. The Prime Minister looked visibly tired even if he remained resolute. The Press Briefing took place inside Parliament House due to the hour and definitely had the look of a late night meeting.

In it the Prime Minister Scott Morrison talked about new measures including advice for gatherings to be limited to two people outside of households. And yes this was the day he advised that his wife Jenny Morrison had gone out to get jigsaw puzzles as they were going to be essential around the house going forward.

I am not ashamed to say it, I was moved.

I felt at that moment that we had not moved fast enough in shutting down. I was aware of an ever increasing danger. I worried for those that I loved and I worried for people I’d never met.

The rate of increase was down slightly in Australia but I guess I was thinking about all 8 billion of us on a rock floating in space.

I was thinking we can only try to get through this and do the best we can and here was someone doing that and he was my Prime Minister goddamnit.

His somewhat flawed traits blunted by his fatigue, his defiant strength to be even more highly regarded given what we faced.

Here was a leader.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – SHUT IT DOWN! – PART III

 

24 March

The situation in Italy continued to deteriorate.

One day I was working in Wattlebrae many years ago. I was cleaning near the Nurses station when a nurse came from a room with a patient and said to another. “Probably Tuesday.”

A patient was in the last hours of their lives and the nurses knew it. They’d seen it enough times to recognise it.

Accepting death is a very real part of being a nurse and being a good one. Some nurses have served in war zones and natural disasters and seen a lot of death but such a large scale in such a short period of time as what was experienced in Wuhan or Lombardy is simply something that leaves a toll.

Let alone the very risk to their own lives and those of their loved ones.

I stand in awe of them.

I truly do.

They are heroes.

They always have been and they always will be.

In Italy student doctors skipped their last exams and were rushed into service. In Britain retired nurses answered the call to come back risking their lives to save others as the NHS faced unprecedented demand. I’m sure this is being replicated around the world

Where do we get such people?

 

As large swaths of the economy shut down to contain the coronavirus, President Trump and others are beginning to question how long economic activity should remain frozen.

 

The World Health Organisation warned the United States of America could become the epicentre of the disease.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo becomes impassioned when speaking about the need for equipment to save lives in his home state. Short of criticising the President directly he challenges FEMA “to pick the people who will die.” The President does not respond well to this.

The Tokyo Olympics are postponed and the Australian Football League having played Round One the previous week to empty stadiums stops its season. This follows all other major codes and several sports leagues overseas already having done so.

In Australia, grocery stores swap out the pensioner hour on some days for health care workers who do shift work.

After work on Tuesday night I go to the local barber and get a haircut.

That night following a National Cabinet meeting the Prime Minister announces a new series of measures.

Coincidentally it is announced hair salons and barbers can continue to stay open but with only 30 minutes for a customer. The next day the Prime Minister adds some flexibility into the time spent in a hair salon. Possibly after speaking to his wife?

Cafes and restaurants can only do take-away and food courts in shopping malls are to be shut down with only take-away to be purchased from outlets in the food courts.

Arcades, swimming pools and amusement parks are to shut down. Large crowds are to not congregate in sporting fields and large parks.

The Prime Minister also advised that Australians would be banned from travelling overseas with a few exceptions like aid workers.

Boot camps are limited to a maximum of 10 people.

Most painfully weddings are limited to five people and funerals are to ten people.

If this seems harsh, think of the poor couples who had weddings mere days earlier before the general populace became aware of how dangerous the virus could be. It must be terrible to know if guests have subsequently become sick.

“Barbecues of lots of friends or even extended family coming together to celebrate one-year-old birthday parties and all these sorts of things — we can’t do those things now.” said the Prime Minister.

On the 24th of March the WHO reported 2,136 cases in Australia with a daily increase of 427. There were eight deaths with a daily increase of one.

In Ireland there were 219 cases with a daily increase of 98. There were two deaths with a daily increase of one.

In South Africa there were 402 cases confirmed with a daily increase of 128. The first death was recorded in the country on the 28th of March.

In Russia there were 438 cases reported with no daily increase. The first two deaths would be reported in the country on the 26th of March.

In Singapore there were 507 cases with a daily increase of 52. On the 20th of March they recorded their first two deaths.

In India there were 519 cases with a daily increase of 85. There were nine deaths following the first reported on the 13th of March.

In Canada there were 1,739 with a daily increase of 355. The were 25 deaths with a daily increase of six.

In Brazil there were 2,201 cases with a daily increase of 1,297. The death toll had risen by 35 in one day to reach 46.

In Germany there were 4,438 cases with a daily increase of 1,127. There were 32 deaths with a daily increase of five.

In the United Kingdom there were 6,654 cases with a daily increase of 967. There were 335 deaths with a daily increase of 54.

In South Korea there were 9,037 cases with a daily increase of 76. There were 120 deaths with a daily increase of nine.

In Iran there were 24,811 cases with a daily increase of 1,762. The death toll reported was 1,934 with a daily increase of 122.

In Spain there were 33,089 cases with a daily increase of 4,517. There were 4,182 deaths with a daily increase of 462.

In the United States of America there were 51,914 cases with a daily increase of 20,341. The death toll was 673 with 271 from that day alone.

In Italy there were 63,927 cases with a daily increase of 4,789. The death toll was 6,077 with an increase of 601 that day.

In China the WHO reported 81,767 with a daily increase of 764. The number of dead reported as 3,283 with a daily increase of seven. China’s figures have consistently flattend out with very small increases over this period of time. This is in contradiction to many other nations that have experienced disastrous second waves. The country has also backtracked on opening up initiatives at times too.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – SHUT IT DOWN! – PART II

 

As we entered the third week of March more restrictions were to come but the new normal would be firmly established by the end of the week. My hope was that people can deal with having to make changes a great deal more than the uncertainty that comes with not knowing what is going to transpire. Yet for many people around the world uncertainty was coming regardless.

We started to hear about those who were losing loved ones and unable to see them in their last moments or attend the funeral. The spectre of far ranging unemployment also began to descend.

23 March

Monday at my work which involves answering phones we switched to make as many of our processes as digital as possible and shifted the phones to being manned for only a little more than half of the day.

This was a somewhat busy period for us so we held our breath and wondered what would happen. We managed, we did our best, we supported each other, we came through.

I took the time to tell my leadership team that “A calm Captain steadies the ship through storms.”

I had many calm Captains.

As of midday as per the announcement the day before, cinemas, pubs, clubs, casinos and gyms are all shut down. I hadn’t gone to the gym in months but I had just been thinking maybe working from home would help me start up again… yes I know that’s not true.

 

 

In Sydney NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced schools would remain open and safe but urged parents to keep their kids home for online learning if they could. School Easter holidays aren’t due to begin until 13APR2020.

In some schools attendance is down to a third.

Discussion is also turning to how to provide solid distance education to all children including those with limited digital tools and internet wifi. Old school methods of booklets and mail outs are utilised too.

One of the guys I have water cooler conversations (there are no water coolers in our officer but GenX and Boomers will know what I’m talking about) at work advised me that he had pulled his kids from school.

I said “Good on him.”

I wanted all of us to be working from home and keeping our kids home as soon as we could.

 

Australian unemployment rate to double as coronavirus hammers ...

Around the country lines snaked around Centrelink offices as the myGov website crashed due to a surge in applications. The newly unemployed went to apply in local offices instead.

I worked twelve long years as a temp and on contracts finding myself looking for work at least a dozen times over that same period.

Sometimes I was unemployed for two weeks – other times five months.

Once I worked across two organisations, in 4 different roles, having received six extensions on two different contracts and gone up two pay scales over the course of 24 months.

I never took a holiday and through most of those twelve years I worked a second job as well.

I never managed to save up anything – only to pay unexpected bills. I will admit I did recklessly pay for a trip to attend my sister’s wedding. That was an indulgence on my part.

Registering for and being on the dole is a painful process.

I once sat in a public park to get internet access to apply for a job on an old laptop before driving to a local library in the middle of the application because my battery power started to run out.

Yet I am here and so my hope is all of these talented and hard working people who are victims of circumstance will come out the other side.

 

Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison addresses the scaled-back parliament session

The Prime Minister was also thinking of them.

In Canberra there was a sitting of Parliament to pass life saving legislation.

Across Australia today many thousands of Australians will lose their jobs. They are lining up at Centrelink offices as we speak. Something unimaginable at this scale only weeks ago.”

“Life is changing in Australia for every Australian and life is going to continue to change.

“Meeting this challenge is bigger than any Australian … In the months ahead we will face more issues that none of us even now can imagine.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – SHUT IT DOWN!

Hundreds defied warnings for social isolation at Bondi yesterday.

 

We entered the weekend of March 21-22 still with a lot of questions of how life was changing. International travel was curtailed and it was clear that trading was down and there would be huge economic consequences but how far the restrictions would increase and whether the number of cases increasing would slow down were all up in the air.

A friend of mine had a house party on Friday night. I had a very quiet weekend but our way of life was still mostly in tact even if some of shop shelves were bare and there was a growing concern for our health care workers.

We knew things were escalating but we did not know what the new normal was going to be. I was hoping the next week would define it.

 

March 21

I saw a couple of videos on youtube including an interview with the former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who had steered us through the Global Financial Crisis. His comments about stronger actions being taken by Singapore or Germany led to me taking on board more information over the weekend.

 

 

The Northern Territory announced it would close its borders 4pm on March 24.

The NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner said “I’ve seen what’s happening overseas, I’ve seen what’s happening down south and I’m not going to let that happen here,” he said.

“The Territory comes first.”

 

March 22

Seeing how people react to a crisis reveals a lot about their personalities and the things they prioritise. Amongst my friends and peers I saw people who chart their own path in terms of choosing to take their kids out of school or put in place precautions.

One friend drove out of Sydney early on and is now growing a vegetable garden on Moreton Island with a raft of supplies.

Some of us had parties and went out to comedy festivals seizing the day.

Some have questioned all the information provided by the “mainstream media” and wondered if every action is justified.

I admire in some ways all of these people and all of these traits.

For me, I learnt that I do follow instructions from my leadership and institutions. I follow their lead even when I disagree possibly and I look to help others rather than take care of myself. I do ask questions to see if we are doing everything we should but I rarely rebel.

In that way I am like a soldier.

On Sunday I texted my leadership team I was ready to work from home and the next day I advised that I believed we should have as many people at home as soon as possible. Which was of course what we all had been working on for the past fortnight and more but I guess I was communicating a change in my wish to not be treated differently.

Yet I was in the office for most of that week.

 

On the same Sunday, South Australia and Western Australia announced they would close their borders that Tuesday.

On Sunday the National Cabinet was to meet having moved a head a meeting scheduled for Tuesday.

Before it the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced a comprehensive breakdown of new lockdown measures.

The Australian Capital Territory advised pupils will be told to stay home from Tuesday onwards and that teachers needed to prepare to transition from face to face teaching.

In Victoria Term 1 was scheduled to end that Friday and was moved up to Tuesday. In New South Wales they were scheduled until April 13. 

This was not in keeping with the views of the Prime Minister who had previously advised 4 days earlier, ““The health advice is that schools should remain open. That is the health advice. Interestingly, this is also what Singapore has done. Singapore has been one of the more successful countries. In Singapore, the schools are open.”

“The health advice here, supported by all the premiers, all the chief ministers and my Government is that schools should remain open.

 

The National Cabinet met and afterwards on Sunday evening the Prime Minister announced a new range of measures.

Jobseeker payments, effectively our welfare payments were people out of work, looking for work and unable to work was to be almost doubled from $565.70 a fortnight with an additional $550. The decision came with a price tag of $14.1 billion dollars. There were also one off $750 payments that some would be eligible for. There was also to be a moratorium on tenant evictions.

The government was working to keep everybody with the means to feed and house themselves and support small businesses through the downturn as they worked to shut down major parts of the economy in order to save lives. They were very clear that this was the first of many such measures that were already costing 10% of the economy.

Interestingly the Prime Minister also mentioned “I’d be careful at comparing Australia’s data to other jurisdictions. Australia’s testing, for example, shows that we have the lowest, one of the lowest, if not the lowest test positivity in the world. We’re at 0.7 per cent compared to USA at 13, UK at 5, and Korea at 3.

There was a press conference before the National Cabinet met and one after they had met.

In the press conference earlier in the day his bull doggish manner was still on display, after pictures of crowds flocking to Bondi Beach the day before have travelled around the world.

 

“What happened at Bondi Beach yesterday was not OK and served as a message to federal and state leaders that too many Australians are not taking these issues seriously enough,” Mr Morrison said.

“The more Australians themselves assist us in this fight against the virus to protect lives and to protect livelihoods, the more and the better able we are to ensure that Australia comes out stronger on the other side.”

“So it’s a simple plea.” 

“We need you, we need you to do your bit when it comes to social distancing, to keeping that healthy distance, to respecting and following the rules that we’re setting down.”

Late on Sunday night the Prime Minister went before cameras to provide further answers, to provide information and to assure the Australian people that the National Cabinet were working together although clearly they had pushed back hard for what they deemed were the right decisions for their state.

In line with what the Premiers had already announced, the Prime Minister advised indoor entertainment, sporting and religious venues were to be shut from midday Monday. This included pubs, clubs and restaurants and cinemas.

I have not seen a movie at the cinemas since 07MAR2020 when I saw Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears.  It was the third 2020 release I saw after the The Gentlemen and Birds of Prey….well you can’t win them all.

I appreciate some of the kind words from people knowing that I am such a huge film buff and film critic. Yet I want you to know I have streaming, plenty of films I have not gotten around to seeing and… well there are other things to worry about right now.

I have a job, an ability to work from home, the weather is pleasant and everyone I care about is safe although financially many have been impacted.

My thoughts have not been about whether Wonder Woman 1984 is delayed but more what the hell can I do to help those who are experiencing hardship because like I said… I feel truly blessed.

In this briefing there was a small moment that gave birth to a bit of an internet craze of the ensuring days. From my perspective a storm in a teacup but a fun one nonetheless.

 

One thing that stood out to me then and still resonates with me now is when the Prime Minister voiced a real concern for the business sector in the evening briefing.

This was at a time when real fear was working through the populace who had secure jobs about the spread of the virus.  There were grave concerns that we had moved too slowly and it was certainly my thoughts in that moment.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported “The country’s rate of new confirmed coronavirus cases is now growing at 20-25 per cent a day, with some projections showing between 1 or 2 million Australians could be infected by the end of April. If those numbers were reached, tens of thousands of people would be dead based on the mortality rate recorded by China earlier this year.

The World Health Organisation reported on March 22 that Australia had 1,098 cases with a daily increase of 17. We had reached four figures the day before. The death toll was seven.

Yet the Conservative leader more than spared a thought for the very real pain that would occur to millions of Australians losing their jobs it spilled out of him genuinely.

“I am deeply regretful that those workers and those business owners who will be impacted by this decision will suffer the economic hardship that undoubtedly they will now have to face.

That is a very, very regretful decision, but a necessary one in the view of the premiers and chief ministers and myself to ensure that we can control the spread of this virus.

This should highlight to all Australians how serious this is and how hard we all have to work together to get this right”.

 

9/11 dust cloud may have caused widespread pregnancy issues ...

I remember the fear and uncertainty that came in the wake of September 11, 2001.

I remember the two speed economy that Australia became following the Global Financial Crisis.

I remember helping during the Queensland floods of 2011. Driving halfway across town against my mother’s pleas to be with my girlfriend Karen as the river rose and cut off roads.

I sat and watched my TV in the first weekend of this year as my country burned and pushed myself to help arrange a fundraiser barbeque at work. So chastened I was by my ability to not be more directly involved as I had been during the floods of 2011.

I now found myself old enough to remember more than a crisis or two.

Yet I’ve never seen anything like this.

None of us have.

The people who did are all dead.

 

Are we ready for a flu pandemic? - The Boston Globe

My grandfather was born in 1918, the same year there Spanish Flu Pandemic began and he has been gone for a long time. That pandemic which has many parallels to this one is out of living memory.

So interestingly enough people have been taking comfort and inspiration in the parrallels of the Great Depression and World War II.

Both were endured in harsher conditions and with a higher death toll and went on for a lot longer than a few weeks.

As new restrictions finally started to take effect and change the way we lived our lives the Prime Minister Scott Morrison found the words to galvanise us calling on those memories of times gone by in the press conference held earlier that day.

He opened with.

We’re a strong nation, we’re a strong people, and in the months ahead, we’re going to find out just how strong we are. We have the example and inspiration of generations that have dealt with challenges like this before. And we have the advantage of the lessons that they have passed on to us about how we can stick together to stick this through, to build a bridge to the recovery on the other side.

We cannot prevent all the many hardships, all the many sacrifices. That we will face in the months ahead. And while these hardships and these sacrifices may break our hearts on occasion, we must not let them break our spirit. And we must not let them break our resolve as Australians.”

He closing words were “So look, while Australians may be self-isolating in many cases and keeping their distance from each other. I want to assure all Australians of this, that together we will get through this. We will not want to see anyone go through this alone at the end of the day, through the support that we’re providing. But we need to support each other. We need to care for each other and together Australia we will get through this, and we will emerge stronger. Thank you.

-Lloyd Marken